Dyson tells libel trial Daily Mirror article was a distressing ‘personal attack’
An article that featured Sir James Dyson in a “rogues’ gallery” and stated that he had “championed Vote Leave … before moving his global head office to Singapore” was “damaging and distressing” to the inventor and entrepreneur, the high court has heard.
In a written statement to the court, Dyson described a Daily Mirror article published last year as a “personal attack on all that I have done and achieved in my lifetime” and was “highly distressing and hurtful”.
Dyson, who attended the Royal Courts of Justice in London for the first day of the trial on Tuesday, is suing the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), for libel over the article published in January 2022. The publisher maintains the article was “honest opinion”.
In the article, the journalist Brian Reade wrote that it must be confusing to be a young person who “wants to do the right thing”, before discussing the actions of a series of individuals including the former prime minister Boris Johnson, Prince Andrew and Dyson.
Reade, who writes a weekly column for the Mirror, referred to Dyson as “the vacuum-cleaner tycoon who championed Vote Leave due to the economic opportunities it would bring to British industry before moving his global head office to Singapore”.
He continued: “Kids, talk the talk but then screw your country and if anyone complains, tell them to suck it up.”
In England and Wales, the subjects of unwanted stories can sue for libel if they believe their reputation has been damaged. Defences against such action include showing that the story is “substantially true” on the balance of probabilities, is in the public interest or an honestly held opinion backed up by facts.
Justin Rushbrooke KC, for Dyson, told the court the article was without basis, had inflicted “significant material damage”, and the reference to having “screwed the country” could be interpreted as to mean that Dyson had done “something harmful”.
But, Adrienne Page KC, for MGN, which is now called Reach, said in written submissions: “Opinions do not need to be justifiable as the claimant puts it, they need to be capable of being held by a person who is honest.”
She added: “It was a genuinely and indeed widely held view that the decisions relied on represented a betrayal of this country made particularly acute by the claimant’s prior and influential support for a political position which, in the eyes of many, has caused this country severe economic harm.”
Dyson wrote that a decision to move his company’s headquarters to Singapore “had nothing to do with Brexit” but “simply reflected the long-term commercial reality”. He added that he had donated £80m for educational purposes.
In a written witness statement, the 76-year-old said he had made “huge investments” in the UK and prioritised “setting a good moral example to young people”.
He continued: “So to be accused by the defendant in the articles of being a hypocrite who had screwed the country and who set a poor moral example to young people is not only wrong but incredibly harmful to my reputation.”
Dyson argues that the article’s headline referred to “cheats” prospering and included “a rogues’ gallery of notorious persons”. He added: “I found these attacks particularly damaging and distressing.”
The trial before Mr Justice Jay is to finish on Friday with a decision expected at a later date.